My dad

phd planIn looking at this cartoon about Ph.D. plan vs. Ph.D. reality, I can probably label each one of those bumps along the road. One might be when I started my new job. One might be my divorce. Another one might be for the medical challenges I faced. But that last one, that big one toward the end, I know exactly what that one is. That one is from last fall, when my dad got sick.

Just before school started I took the day off to go with my parents to see my dad’s orthopedic surgeon. He was supposed to have shoulder replacement surgery, but when they did the MRI, they found something suspicious. The appointment was to determine if he could have surgery or if he had cancer.

He had cancer.

The roller coaster began. It was doctors’ appointments, biopsies, and tests, tests and more tests. I sat with my dad as he staunchly told the nurse he had a DNR. I waited for him as he struggled to breath walking down the hallway, but too proud and stubborn to accept a ride in a wheelchair. I smiled and joked with him trying to help him keep his dignity as I undressed him because he couldn’t do it himself. I listened to what the doctor said. I asked questions. I tried to help my parents understand. i tried to comprehend the incomprehensible.

Then one Friday morning when I was at work, my mom called. Dad had fallen down in the bathroom and they were rushing him to the hospital. I left work. Raced home. Packed a bag. And went to him. I stayed with him in the hospital. They were trying to determine the primary source of the cancer. They were trying to determine how to treat it. They were trying to determine if they could treat it.

They couldn’t.

The next month was crazy. He went from the hospital to a nursing home where we struggled as a family to decide the best course of action, or inaction.

All the while, I brought my laptop and worked on my dissertation. I spent hours at night at the hospital or the nursing home sitting with my dad and typing away. He knew that I was close to finishing my dissertation and he was so proud of me. He had done all of his course work for his Ph.D. but never did the dissertation. I was the first in my family to finish.

At first I worked hard because I thought I could finish it while he was still alive and he could see me graduate. But then I knew he wasn’t going to make it until the spring and I was doubly determined to finish it for him.

Writing was kind of a companion for me late at night. I like to think that while the beeping of the machines he was on kept me company, the clicking of the keys while I typed kept him company. He knew I was there.

At the end of October, just about two months after we found out he had cancer, we brought him home to say good-bye. As he was so fond of saying in the last weeks of his life, he wanted to die surrounded by his loving family, and he did.

I was there with him. We had all been there with him at the end. His loving wife. All six of his children and their spouses. All thirteen of his grandchildren and their significant others, and both of his great grandsons.

But his reach went far beyond his family.

He was a coach. He coached baseball and basketball right up until the month before he got sick. He coached hundreds of kids over the 40+ years he coached. But he didn’t just influence the kids he coached; he changed everyone he came in contact with. Opposing coaches and opposing teams came to his wake to tell us how he impacted their lives through the strength of his character. His entire baseball team, in their uniforms came to the funeral to stand proud for him.

Everyone was special and important to him. He always took the time to talk to anyone he met. As a kid, it drove me crazy that he talked to anyone and everyone, but now it makes me proud to realize the impact he had on people’s lives because he took the time to talk to them. I try to be more like him each day.

I miss him everyday. We all do. I will miss him even more tomorrow, when I walk across the stage and get hooded as the first doctor in my family and he isn’t there to hold me in his arms and tell me he’s proud of me. But he will be there with me in spirit. He will be there in the tears I cry, the shouts of joy, and the sense of pride and accomplishment.

I love you dad. This moment is dedicated to you.

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Gratitude

I can’t believe it. I feel so grateful for everything that is in my life. It is only recently that I can even realize the many blessings in my life compared to where I was. I currently have the most amazing supports in my life. I have some amazing local supports of friends who will hold me and love me through everything. I also have friends from throughout different stages of my life who love and support me from a distance.

For much of my life I didn’t feel like I deserved friends like the ones I have now. I didn’t think I should have people who loved me. It’s hard to imagine but I feel like for the first time in my life I am letting myself bloom, letting myself be happy.

I look at what I have in my life now and I know that I couldn’t have had this just a few short years ago. My ex-husband held me back. He didn’t want me to have friends. He was controlling. He was overshadowing. And I let it happen. I thought that was love. I thought that was what I deserved.

When he got mad, I also thought I deserved that.

When he lost his temper, I thought it was my fault.

When he blamed me, I blamed me too.

But there was an angel in my life who helped me to see a light. A brighter future. And a promise of something better. And for that I will be forever grateful.

Since then, I have realized that there is an amazing world out there that I am part of. That I deserve to be part of. That I make better by being part of it.

I always thought I was pretty accelerated at things. I was a good student. I excelled in my studies and I have always been pretty forward moving and goal orientated in my career. But when it comes to life, I guess I am a late bloomer.

I feel like a butterfly who has finally gotten out of my cocoon and out of the dark shadows of my past. I feel like I can finally spread my wings and fly. I feel like I deserve this happiness that I am now feeling.

gratitude

I am so grateful for the blessings in my life.

Each morning I wake up with a smile on my face for the amazing gifts I have in my life. That you to all those people who saw I was worthy before I did and who have helped me to embrace my new found sense of self.

Peace ~ Hope ~ Joy ~ Love

 

Over the past 4 weeks of advent, my church has been focusing on these 4 words: Peace, Hope, Joy and Love.

As I think about Peace, I try to find peace in my life in where I am right now. Peace about not being in a relationship right now. Peace about being alone. Peace about the amazing people I have in my life.  Peace and appreciation for what I have and who I am right now.

Hope is more about the future. About the hope that I won’t always be alone. It is about hope for what is yet to come. If I have faith that I am in the right place right now then I hope that being in the right place, both physically and spiritually, will lead to blessings yet to come.

Joy is about celebrating the small things. Celebrating the blessing of friends and family and appreciating all of the little things in life. Celebrating my boys and watching them grow. Celebrating time together with family and friends. Sharing a simple cup of tea, or dinner out. Or simply sharing text messages from friends near and far. Celebrating the many joys I have in my life.

Love, well that is harder for me. Being divorced twice this is an area I feel fairly incompetent in. Something I struggle with constantly. I have numerous friends whom I love and adore, just can’t seem to make the whole relationship thing work.

I am trying to find an inner peace, which will give me hope for the future and a joy about love I have yet to experience.

My wish for you (and me) this holiday season and in the upcoming new year: Peace ~ Hope ~ Joy ~ Love ~ blessings for all.

 

 

 

 

Father’s Day

dad-fatherA friend of mine sent me a message this morning that said “Happy Father’s Day. You are both mother and father to your boys.”

What is the difference? Are moms the caretakers while dads are the disciplinarians? Hence the infamous line: “Wait until your father gets home!” I like to think that we have gone beyond many of the stereotypical mother/ father roles of homemaker vs. breadwinner. I think many families I know have created their own roles for mother and father.

So while celebrating father’s day, I got to thinking: what does it take to be a father? Beyond the obvious medical definition, what does it really mean to be a father? One of the definitions on dictionary.com is: “One who cares for another as a father might.”

So, what does that mean? How might a father care for a child?

Neither of my boys have their dads in their lives, but I don’t think they lack for a “father”. There are plenty of people, both men and women, who love them enough to care for them “as a father might.” Friends, uncles, cousins, grandfathers, who have played the role of father for them.

Those who have roughhoused with them, and those who have hugged them.

Those who were there when they got hurt, telling them to shake it off or helping them up.

Those who have laughed and joked with them, and those who have supported them when others laughed or joked at their expense.

Those who have given them “fatherly advice” and those who have just let them talk.

Those who take the time to tell them when they are wrong and celebrate with them when they are right.

Those who care enough to worry about them, and love them enough to make a difference in their lives.

I think a father is all this and more.

I developed a very different relationship with my father through his love for my sons. It has been an enormous blessing for us to grow in this way.

When I look at my boys on this father’s day, I hope they take the best parts of the “fathers” they have had in their lives and use the wisdom and the love they have been shown, to become the best dad’s they can be to their own children.

Happy Father’s Day to all those people who are “fathers” both biological and otherwise, in name or in heart. And especially to those who have been fathers to my boys.

Better late than never??

Watching him glance at the door between every punch during karate class.

Sensing him get increasingly anxious as the week goes on in anticipation of his dad showing up or not.

Having to join the “regular” class instead of the father / child class because his dad didn’t make it on time.

Trying to help him hope for the best but not be disappointed if it doesn’t happen is heartbreaking.
But as his mom, that’s my job.

This week at karate class my son had a father/ child karate class. Having divorced parents and not living with his dad, an activity like this brings a heightened level of stress and anticipation.

I tried to start early. I told my ex about the day. Told him that his son was looking forward to having him there. Tried to convey the importance. I told my son that we would try our best but sometimes dad was busy and might not be able to make it (still making excuses for him).

My son was anxious and irritated all week. Not sure what his dad would say. Not sure what would happen. And not sure how to say all the things he is feeling.

He said he would go.

I tried to encourage them to spend some time together before or after karate class. I tried to arrange for him to pick him up and bring him so they could go together. His dad said he couldn’t do that.

On the way to karate I get the text. “Running late”.

Class begins and they ask kids with their dads to go to one place and kids without their dad’s to go to another part of the mat.

As he begins class in the other part of the mat, he watches the door. Glancing over his shoulder between each punch, kick, move. Mouthing to me “where is he?” Waiting. Watching. Hoping.

His dad does come. 15 minutes late. But better late than never; right?

After karate he asked his dad and his girlfriend if they could do something together. They said “no”. He asked when he would see them again. They said “soon”. He thanked them for coming. They gave him some stuff they bought him. And they left, 15 short minutes after they arrived.

My son packed up his karate bag came over to me, gave me a big hug, and said, “Father / son karate was fun. But I liked mother / son karate better.”

I beamed. Me too buddy, me too.

Blessed

IMG_3580 This is a picture that I took of the sunset last night. Yes. I am lucky enough to be so close to the water and a place where sunsets like this are fairly common occurrence. As I watched the sunset last night with some friends, I realized how truly blessed I am.

The past few years have been kind of rough. Going through a divorce is never easy. Having been through it twice it can break you, if you let it. But sometimes getting through the hard times is what allows you the distance to reflect on where you are in your life and appreciate the amazing people who are a part of your life.

I definitely have some amazing people in my life.

I have friends who have known me forever. Friends who are Facebook friends with my dad (yes – he’s on FB and I’m not). And friends who are just getting to know me (and trying to get me on FB).

I have friends who have known me before I ever got married, those who have known me and supported me in varying stages of marriage and divorce, and friends who have never known any of my ex’s and just know the me I have become.

I have friends who held my babies when they were born, built snowmen with my sons when they were just kids, and friends who have become family supports to my boys as they have become amazing young men.

I have friends who stalk my blog, friends who comment and discuss my blog, and friends who are common inspirations for my blog.

As I look back on my journey of life I think about the random happenings, the twists and turns, the agonizing decisions and the split second decisions that led me to where I am now. And I wouldn’t change a second of it. Because each of those moments have made me who I am and connected me with the people who love and cherish me.

So as you read this blog take a moment to enjoy a sunset.IMG_3583

Count all of the blessings you have in your life.

Don’t forget to count the people who have touched your life.

Those who have been with you through it all and those who have just begun walking with you.

To all my friends, both new and old, I love you and thank you for sharing a sunset with me.

Wizard of Oz

A student that I work with who was raped by her boyfriend almost a year ago came up to me and told me that the anniversary of that horrible event is coming up. And when she told me the date, I realized that on that date I would be sitting through two shows of The Wizard of Oz. And it made me think about the characters and what they are searching for in the play and what we are all searching for in life: a brain, a heart, the nerve and a home.

These are my thoughts for her…

A Brain

The scarecrow wants a brain. He fears he is only full of fluff and isn’t smart enough. He sings to Dorothy that if he had a brain, “Then perhaps I’ll deserve you, and be even worthy of you.” And isn’t that what brains or smarts are all about? Being respected and admired by others for our ideas. At the end of the play the Wizard gives him a doctor of thinkology degree and be begins spouting facts about isosceles triangles.

But I think the kind of brains or smarts that the scarecrow wants throughout the play is really more about wisdom than book smarts. He made a plan to save his friend. He thought about what would be the best way to free her from the witch’s guards. It wasn’t book smarts that freed her, but rather using his brains to think through a situation.

For me the importance of this kind of smarts throughout your life is essential. Thinking about possible solutions and the outcomes of those solutions helps you to make informed decisions to help your friends and to help yourself.

Having brains is also about recognizing a bad or dangerous situation, which is not always an easy thing, and finding a way to get out of it. The situation my student told me about was extremely difficult for anyone, but even more difficult for someone so young. This was her first significant boyfriend. She trusted him. She loved him. She didn’t really have a frame of reference for a healthy relationship, but she knew that something was wrong with the relationship. She knew that he was controlling and manipulative, but she didn’t know how to get out of the situation. He used her trust and love to manipulate her and get her to do what he wanted, or take what he wanted.

Abusive relationships aren’t about book smarts. Anyone can be fooled. It’s bigger than book smarts. But that’s because when you are in a relationship, your heart is also involved. And that is where the Tin Man comes in.

A Heart

We have read and rehearsed every line to the play over and over again. My favorite line to practice is when the Wizard is saying to the Tin Man that he doesn’t realize how lucky he is to not have a heart, because until a heart is unbreakable its not worth having. Then at the end when Dorothy is saying good-bye to the Tin Man he says that he knows he has a heart because now it’s breaking.

Given the fragile nature of a heart it’s a wonder any of us want one at all. Kind of goes against the brains because if you were smart enough, you would know you don’t really want a heart. And I definitely struggle with having a heart, and caring about others, or having the brains not to trust or love again. But I’m too much of a softie for that. I know I have a heart. Because it’s breaking all over again.

It breaks over again for my students. It is broken because someone took advantage of her trust and love and hurt her. He hurt her so deeply that there are days when she doesn’t want to ever trust or love again. And there are days when she wants that love back so strongly that it hurts for different reasons.

Having a heart is a tricky thing. When you experience love it can make your heart sing and make you smile for no reason. But when your heart breaks, it can crush you just as deeply and make you cry for no reason. And that brings us to the Lion and having the courage to love again.

The Nerve

One of my favorite lines that the cowardly lion has is when he says, “All right, I’ll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear them apart. There’s only one thing I want you guys to do.”

The Tin Man and Scarecrow reply, “What’s that?”

The Lion replies, “Talk me out of it!”

To me this is what courage is all about. Being scared of doing something, but doing it anyway. It isn’t easy and doesn’t always make sense, but courage means standing up for what you know is right.

She had the courage to get out. It took her a while to understand what she needed to do, but she did it. She also had the courage to tell others and stand up for herself.

It took nerve, courage to get out.

She showed courage by standing up for herself.

It took love to get out.

She gave her heart over to him. But she knew in her heart she deserved more.

It took brains to get out.

She used her brains in sharing her story, as hard as it was and as much as she fought it. By sharing it and owning it, she took back the power and control he took from her.

But in the end, what I want, what she wants, what Dorothy wants, is a home.

A Home

To me the home that Dorothy is talking about is not the physical home, but the safety and security of being loved and cared for. The feeling of family and belonging. It is the basis for all things we want, a place to fit in and be loved.

Dorothy had it all along. She just didn’t realize it. Sometimes we need to look no farther than our own back yard to realize that we do belong, that we do have the brains to make good decisions for ourselves, that we have the heart to care about others and the courage to open up our heart and do what we have to do for the ones we love.

The wizard tells the Tin Man to remember, “that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” It feels good to know you are loved by others. But it takes courage to open up your heart and let others love you. But it also takes brains to know how to get in the right kind of relationship or get out of the wrong one.

You need to trust yourself and remember, “There’s no place like home.”

Giving

I love Christmas. I love all the celebration, the excitement, and the anticipation. I love the idea of giving. One of my most favorite Christmas Carols is probably one that many people are unfamiliar with. But it touches on this idea of giving.

For some reason my ex-husband was on my mind this morning. It was strange, I don’t usually miss him, and so I stopped to think about why. I realized that it was Christmas and how much he liked it.

Then I thought about why he liked it so much. He was all show. One of the ways in which he equates love is in buying presents for people. Giving equals love to him. He often tried to buy love. It was showy and pretentious and not a good way to love others.

He used to buy a lot of “stuff” at the holidays, but for some reason it never felt good or right. Because he did just that, he bought stuff, for the sake of buying it. He rarely took the time to think about why he bought something or even the person he bought it for.

But through his buying of stuff and his attempts to buy love, I learned a lot about gifts and about the real joy of giving.

I used to worry about how much money I spent on people and getting a bigger or better gift for people. But I’ve learned that the price tag isn’t important. I’ve learned that the best gifts are the ones that come from the heart and are thoughtful. I love when I have found just the right gift for someone. I’m like a little kid, I can hardly wait to give it to them.

My younger son and I have spent a lot of time this Christmas thinking about people and trying to buy, or better yet make, just the right thing for them. I’ve tried to teach him that buying something for the sake of buying it isn’t as important as thinking about the person you are buying something for and finding just the right gift.

This Christmas we have purchased some “just right” gifts as well as crafted a number of homemade gifts for family and friends this year. We have also spent time writing letters or sending cards from the heagiftrt this year.

And even though we have spent less money on gifts we have spent more time on thought on the people we care about this year.

Christmas is a time for giving … love.